Currituck Planning Board hears from Flora Farm rep

Published 9:46 am Monday, February 22, 2021

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By Summer Stevens

The Currituck Planning Board meeting got heated Tuesday night, February 9 when developer Justin Old approached the board with concerns with the staff report that recommended denial of his application for conditional rezoning of Flora Farm, a 202-acre property, from agricultural to commercial/mixed residential.

Old, who represents North-South Development Group, is proposing a development with 277 single-family dwelling lots and residential amenities including a dog park, picnic area, pool, clubhouse and sidewalks, and non-residential amenities including an outdoor dining area and patio, and an 8-foot multi-use path along Caratoke Highway. He is also proposing 7,500 square feet of commercial space.

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This proposal is scaled down from the original request of 285 single-family homes, 125 multi-family units (apartments or townhomes) and 100,000 square feet of general retail space. Both the Board of Commissioners and the community, as shared in a public hearing, felt the project was too intense for the space.

Laurie LoCicero, planning and community development director, presented the report to the Planning Board, citing for the recommended denial traffic and drainage concerns, as well as a lack of public facilities for the proposed development, specifically space for more children in Moyock Elementary, which is already over capacity. The proposed development would lie in both Moyock and Shawboro Elementary districts.

Old responded to concerns, citing oversights in the report. Regarding the traffic issue, Old said, “I think the county is stepping out of their expertise [to recommend denial based on traffic] a little bit, when NCDOT gives us the thumbs up.” The current proposal showed a drastic reduction in traffic from the original proposal, but LoCicero, representing the Technical Review Committee, remained concerned for the traffic impact.

Regarding the school concern, county manager Ben Stikeleather reported to the Planning Board the county’s plans for expanding Moyock Elementary. “We have a lot growth, and with growth comes challenges,” said Stikeleather.

The Flora Farms development will happen in stages, with the first stage of not more than 55 lots not to begin before June 2022. The developers believe that the county will be able to offer adequate school facilities for the projected elementary students based on plans for expansion. The Planning Board approved the motion for conditional rezoning.

Continuing down the agenda, the board approved the requested amendment to the Fost Planned Development Master Plan, to allow a street stub connection to the Flora property.

The board was divided in the request to approve an 11-acre rezoning in Grandy from general business and agricultural to general business and mixed residential. The staff recommended that the applicant submit a conditional zoning application with a conceptual plan first. Jennie Turner, representing planning and community development said, “The conceptual plan could provide desired flexibility for the applicant with assurances that the application maintains community values and consistency with the officially adopted plans.”

The applicant’s representative, Jason Mizelle from the Timmons Group, said the applicant’s desire is to provide modest housing in an area.

Chairman C. Shay Ballance spoke in favor of approving the request. “This opens up an opportunity for small commercial developments,” he said. “Middle class blue-collar housing is a need in the Grandy area.”

The majority of the board, however, agreed that the applicant should pursue conditional zoning application first. The motion failed three to two.

Next, the board heard a request for a text amendment issued by the county to amend the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to prohibit on-site septic systems in utility and drainage maintenance access easements, and a request to clarify the language of the UDO to state that maintenance access drainage easements must be dedicated to the county.

The county had been receiving repeated proposals for septic systems in utility and drainage easements. However, after hearing from designer and developer Mark Bissell that the text amendment would have unintended consequences, the board made a motion to table the issue.

Last, the board approved a stormwater text amendment designed to provide flexibility for the design of multi-family town house development, exempting Type 1 subdivisions from the stormwater detention requirement.